Good Fortune (On submission with Melusine Magazine)

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Post  Dreamygrril on Sat 22 May 2010, 1:17 pm

I snuck into Nana Mutu's bedroom, silent as a snake.

“If you be catchin' them fleas, gel, you'd best stay out of my bed.” She hadn't moved an inch to let me know that she was awake, but I wasn't surprised by her awareness of me. Her dark, honey colored eyes were closed while she spoke, but I wanted them to open.

“Pshaw, Grandma, you know I don't have any fleas.” I climbed onto the bed, and snuggled up to her, ignoring the urge to scratch my head.

Nana tamed a pack of wild dogs two winters ago, and though we tried to keep vinegar on their coats for the bugs, they seemed to get bad this time of year no matter what we did. Wily, scruffy looking creatures, that roamed the lands. I envied them. Sometimes I liked to pretend that I was one of them, and I'd run along side the pack in the forest that sourrounded the village. Finding a den in the afternoon when the sun began to bake, we'd pile in together, and I'd watch the pups wrestle. I wanted to stay outside and sunbathe in the warm rays of summer, but I'd made a promise to my father that I'd not let myself get too tanned this visit. If my Mother only knew that I was sleeping in the shade next to flee ridden mutts, even if it was to avoid the faux pas of brown arms, she'd have an apoplexy.

“Nana?” I said, quietly.

“Mm-hm, gel?”

“You be tellin' me the story? The one where dat man be comin' to be with dis gel?” I mimicked her accent quite well after all these summers.

“Yes. But, don't be sayin' tings like that around your Mutter. You speak proper you hear?” She sat up slowly. Her eyes looked like melted caramel when they opened to stare at me with pretend admonition, “Or that gray faced woman will beat your backside until your mouth purses up and speaks like she does. Like it is full of bitta' grapes.” She gave a laugh.

When I had to leave this place, when I had to take the long voyage home, or to my other home as I saw it, my mother would scrub me from head to toe disgusted at the dirt beneath my nails and the leaves in my hair. Her narrow white blue eyes would glare at me in anger as she rubbed raw my hands and head, all the while complaining about my father's insanity in letting me visit the “old witch”.

I played with a piece of leaf in my hair now, as I sat up on the bed. For all of my mamas fair coloring, she'd been unable to beat the genes of my grandma's people completely. Though my skin was pale milk next to the dark olive of my Nana's, our hair was the same smokey black of the midnight sky. I was proud of it, and its wild length.

In the village where she lived, I left my hair loose like the other natives. Freed from its usual coiffure, it took on a life of its own, twisting into long streams of tangles and knots. My Nana said that the hair was the forest of the body, and it belonged free to claim me as its own. I loved the feel of it on my naked shoulders and back. The swishing sound it made as I bounced along made me feel ladylike and beautiful. Something that all of the face paint I was made to wear back home never could.

My breast were still small enough to go without a shirt here. Even out in the village I wore only a half skirt with my bare chest and feet like the boys. A late bloomer my grandma had said, and like her she'd thought I'd become full very quickly with my cycle.

“Soon, Mahana. I think it is not long now for us to have the ceremony.”

I hoped it was soon, I wouldn't want my mother and her stuffy sister, my aunt Clara, to be the ones to help me cope with a thing like my first bleeding. My Nana would sit in the hut with me on a bed of leaves. We would sing, and make pottery together, while women from the village would come and congratulate me, rubbing my feet and back. If I lived here all year we'd end up sharing a monthly time and that was when all of the women stayed in the hut together, and the men would cook for them. I wished I never had to go back home. When the time came, if I was there when it came, I'd have to stay in bed, alone, and in the dark for the cramps and headaches. The thought made me feel claustrophobic.

Nana settled herself, ready to tell me my story. I faced her, cross-legged, and gave her my hand

She took it firmly and slapped the flat part three times, “The lines of your palms are short and stubby, like a chunk of coral from the sea. They all be going different ways. See?” Nana pointed at the spot almost at my wrist. “You will marry young, and he be a nice man, but he not see you, Mahana.” Her eyes seemed to look right through me. “He see your pretty white skin,” She smiled and I smiled back, “and he see the light in your eyes. But he be mistaken,” she tisked. “ It not be the light for him gel, it be a light for other tings.” Her smile fell. “He find dat out some day too. And he become angry.”

“Like mama.” I said.

My grandmother's face softened, “Yes, gel, like your Mutter.” Squeezing my hand she continued, “But a war come and take him so dat he be angry far away. He be angry for so long, and dat war be angry too, and so dat man he not come home again.”

We were silent for a moment. It was our way of giving some respect to the man, the unhappy man that I would marry somewhere out there in the world young and full of life, never knowing that he would perish in war.

I held up two fingers knowing what came next. She nodded and helped me place them onto the two tiny lines next to the bigger one. “Yes, you have two babes before he go, and you be at home and happy, but not happy like the sun.” She hushed me when I tried to speak. We'd talked about this before, this long period in my life where it would be hardest for me. “We all have happy times, and then sad times, but this time be both for you.” She shook her head at my obstinate look, “Your man be gone, but your babies make you smile, and they bring you sometimes days like the sun again.” She pointed at the last line that ran the rest of my palm. “This line here. This line say dat you go on a big journey. I tink then you come here, gel. I see me with you, but you have buried these old bones way back here,” She pointed at the original line far up towards my wrist again. I couldn't help but touch that part of my hand thinking about when she would be gone. “So I tink by seeing my face in this last line, it means dat you come home to the village again.”

She was silent then for a long moment, but I willed her to go on, “Please, Nana. This is my favorite part.”

“Pshaw! I don't want to fill your head with fancy tings, gel. You do enough of dat on your own.”

“Well, I know it anyway.” I sat taller, ready to tell her what I remembered of the rest, “A man without a face, he brings me happy like the sun. You said he brings me true love, and it make me just like you Nana. Forever,” I grabbed her hand and ran my finger across the incredibly long line on her palm, “happy like the sun, always. And then I can see like you do. The ancestors will speak to me, and I'll see for the village. I'll be able to tell the future.” I said in wonder.

Nana nodded at what I'd recalled, but her eyes held a look of worry.


“I can't see dat man's face.” She stared off in thought, “He not be there to me. Only his shadow. It not make Nana Mutu happy to be blind to a man so important.” She smiled then, “Now you go play with your fleas, Mahana. There needs time for prayin' to the ancestors. Maybe they give me dat man's face. Sometimes we not see tings gel. Those be the tings that eat at you. Remember that when you be seein' someday.”

“But you said it is a good fortune, Nana?”

“Yes, gel.” She shooed me out of the room, “It be a good fortune.”

I left, feet dragging, into the hall way. It was shadowed by the lateness of the day so Nana could not see me when I hid there to watch. And so she did not know that I saw the great sadness on her face as she began to pray. She was worried about me, and what the fates had decided. She wouldnt have chosen for me to be like her.

I couldn't think of anything I'd love more.


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Post  Liberty on Wed 26 May 2010, 1:55 pm

Aww….I really enjoyed reading this. I thought it was well written, and the characters really came alive for me. It’s a very intriguing story.

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Post  thisangel on Wed 02 Jun 2010, 12:43 pm

I really liked this. You have wonderful imagery, and really bring the world to light. I love your MC. Am I correct in guessing this as Austrailia? Wherever it is set, I hope there is more to come!

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